It’s day 9, and the thirstiest Thursday of the year thus far. I mean, I don't know about you, but I could use a stiff drink to chill the heck out. Of what? I'm undecided - but today's letter can help me corner an essence of the day.
Today's letter was written by my dear friend Agnes (yes, THE Agnes mentioned on Day 7 by Hope). My friendship with her is (approximately) less than a year old, but I feel we've already shared a lifetime of jokes. We've both Very Scorpio, and take a lot of pride in being Very Scorpio. This results in a mutual understanding of the importance of a quality industrial boot (but fashion, you know?), making very questionable pop cultural indulgences (see: Charlie Puth), and a melodramatic reaction to the magic of a gut-punching chorus. I field a significant chunk of songs I'm considering for the weekly letter with Agnes before settling on at least 5 fresh tunes, so I'm extremely honored to have (essentially) my second set of ears partake in the cmd+vent calendar.
For day 9, Agnes has provided her top ten favorite songs released this year to get drunk and cry to. Each tune also comes paired with a matching wine or spirit–ooh, la la!
We’ve much to celebrate and cry over having all lived through a rather horrific, worldwide emotional rollercoaster ride in 2017. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year, it’s that you really need to unwind and let it all hang out every once in awhile.
Cry Yrself Clean
The first time I ever got obliterated, blackout drunk was at the tail end of my first semester at college. I was 18 and had just started taking antidepressants the year before and had no idea how quickly a cocktail of Four Loko and SSRIs would affect me. A group of friends and I were pre-gaming a local party in my dorm room and I suddenly found myself locked in the bathroom with my best friend at the time, absolutely bawling and sharing our most intimate traumas. I hadn't cried that hard in years, especially not in front of anybody else. I preferred keeping emotions that overwhelmed me locked safely away. This outburst was both a literal and figurative watershed moment for me. We never made it to that party, but I felt better than I had in a long time.
Thus began the time honored and cathartic tradition of letting myself regularly have a contemplative drunk cry. Most of the time, this occurs on the subway, walking on the deserted sidewalk or, if I feel like really investing in my melancholy, a single person Uber/Lyft. There are people who may call this "dramatic," but some of us just have more cinematic coping mechanisms than others. The key to an effective "drunk cry home" is the soundtrack. God knows this past year has given us plenty of real reasons to cry on public transportation, but we've also gotten some pretty incredible music out of it. I've taken it upon myself to select from this cornucopia of sad jams the top ten BEST songs to listen to on repeat on your drunk walk home, and let that emotional dam break.
2017 was a big year for Scorpios; Drake, SZA, Bjork, and unfortunately, Katy Perry, all released new music this year to varying degrees of success. There is however no denying that Lorde reigns supreme after dropping perhaps the most Scorpio album of all time, Melodrama. A collection that is sure to go down in break-up album history, Melodrama is essentially a restructuring of the 5 stages of grief - Lorde denies, rages, bargains, cries, rages some more, and reluctantly accepts that the most important relationship of her life is with herself. "Liability" is for all of us who have been told we are too much or worried about taking up more space than we were allowed. Many a summer-night-sob was set to the dulcet tones of this self-love letter.
Cocktail: a chilled bottle of rose
2. Prom - SZA
While on the topic of Scorpios, I do not think that any album this year captured the feeling of transitioning from your destructive early 20s into the guilt ridden and uncertain latter half of that decade better than SZA's Ctrl. It was extremely difficult to choose just one track for this list, as the entire album felt like a millennial manifesto, covering everything from the often complicated emotional maze of casual relationships to the ennui of early adulthood in the internet era. With "Prom" though, SZA went for the fucking kill, writing what amounts to a monologue about her own fear of failure and receptivity to intimacy. I dare you NOT burst into tears when those first few lines of "Prom" come on:
Fearin' not growin' up
Keepin' me up at night
Am I doin' enough?
Feel like I'm wastin' time
Cocktail: Tequila soda
Upon my first listen to After Laughter, I remember taking my headphones out and scoffing incredulously. In the year of our lord 2017, had Paramore released a perfect sad-pop album about living with mental illness? Abso-fucking-loutely. Not only did Paramore manage to reinvent their sound and go from second wave pop punk darlings to studio-shiny popstars, they had created a lyrically mature and personal meditation on depression, relationships, and growing up. "Fake Happy" starts off stripped down, with Williams slowly crooning over a plucking acoustic guitar about her impenetrable veneer of happiness , asserting that we all put on a face to hide our uglier, less pleasant emotions. A pulsing keyboard carries us through the rest of the song as it picks up and eventually explodes, with lyrics that feel like they were taken straight from a recurring fight between Williams and a significant other. Cathartic, and affirming, the track is perfect for a good self-righteous cry in your bedroom.
I will be the first to admit that I hadn't been a fan of The Front Bottoms before this year. By the time I found out about them in college, I felt like I had grown out of my DIY pop punk phase and only clung to certain bands out of nostalgia for my teenage years. Well, it turns out that there's something about a nasally voice soaring over simple guitar riffs and swirling synths that still grabs me by the heart and squeezes, no matter how old I am. Going Grey is full of upbeat and nostalgic ruminations on toxic friendships, healing relationships, and childhood memories, but I found myself coming back to the first track and its introspective look at the effects of burying our true feelings more than any other. A strong drumbeat carries you through the first verse, and then the chorus bursts through like a controlled panic attack:
Holy fuck, I'm about to die
Angry for no reason, twisted up inside
Cocktail: Pabst Blue Ribbon
Look, Sampha has one of the richest and most recognizable voices in music, and this debut (HOW??) album will destroy you. I've been wrapping myself in his smooth vocals since his SBTRKT days back in 2011, so it's hard to believe this is the first solo work he's ever released. Written about losing his mother to cancer, the album is personal, honest, and rich with variety, bouncing between glitchy beats and classic instrumentation. This track is the most stripped down and feels like a confessional, just Sampha and the titular piano in his mother's home. Yes, I can see you're crying already...bitch, me too.
If you had told me four years ago that I would be crying to a Harry Styles solo album on the street at 2 a.m. I would have slapped you across the face. That said, you would have been absolutely right. Although I came out of the 1D solo-work cyclone not quite loving anything the way I had loved them as a band, Harry's album managed to squeak out a few really special tracks. "Sweet Creature" remains my favorite on the album, soft and warm like an old photo from a family vacation. It's simple, just a voice and an acoustic guitar riff reminiscent of "Blackbird," but it's effective. The lyrics feel like a letter to your mom, lamenting not speaking enough, and stubborn arguments that ultimately don't matter in the face of the comfort you bring each other. As a fairly recent college grad reckoning with independence, this song feels the way leaving my childhood home after the holidays always feels: bittersweet.
Cocktail: Hot Toddy
We are truly blessed that one of our most effective sad-jam writers is also one of our most prolific. Sufjan has been making me cry since before puberty, so when I found out that he would be writing songs for the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack, I invested in tissues in bulk. The film is a gorgeous must-see, and the use of Sufjan’s music is heart-wrenching. This lovely track, featuring Sufjan's trademark tenderness and longing over twinkling chords, speaks of grasping for memories of a love that slipped through your fingers. It's one of those songs that describes such sweeping romance as many of us have never experienced, but Sufjan's earnest storytelling and atmospheric instrumentals will reliably have you gazing out of a cab window with silent tears rolling down your cheeks, mourning a love lost or never manifested.
Everything about the way Angel Olsen, the heir to Cat Power's throne, sings feels like old Kodachrome footage. When I listen to "Only With You," I feel instantly transported to a grainy video of a 1950s dance hall, couples slowly spinning around me on a gymnasium floor, full dresses brushing against my calves. On Olsen's album Phases, the melancholy comes from not just the lyrics, but her masterful creation of atmosphere. Each of her songs has a timelessness to it, all totally nostalgic while simultaneously being completely of the moment. Olsen's voice usually trembles with what feels like barely contained rage and it's lowered to a near whisper on this track, ebbing and flowing until its climaxes into a woeful mantra: You don't find it in me.
Cocktail: Old Fashioned
2017 also blessed us with a new, highly anticipated album from Annie Clark, three years after her last release, and it's her best work since Actor in my opinion, despite the backlash from the purists. It's much less experimental than her previous work, focusing more on personal relationships and roiling emotions, and it's deeply pop-centric. "Hang On Me" builds off of a nearly Swiftian beat, reminiscent of "Blank Space," but veers off into more classic St. Vincent territory with buzzing synths and a full string orchestra, bells chiming as though from a distance. The track swells to the edge of something, never quite culminating in the climax you're expecting, before pulling back and fading out. It's a mature lament, an acceptance of being othered as an adult instead of a teenager, and it doesn't come across as trite or melodramatic. Instead, it feels honest.
As dense with sad-pop as 2017 was, there was a terrible lack of tracks reserved for crying in the club (Robyn, please call me...) Fortunately, Sylvan Esso had us covered with this siren song of suicidal ideation laid over vibrating synths and a pulsing drum machine. The track draws us in with undulating synthesizers and a metronome beat serving as the background to a rapid fire list of grand morbid plans, which then burst into a light humming chorus, a reluctant admittance that perhaps this Earth is worth staying on, if only to see this "you" exist. It's a romantic idea phrased as a sardonic tantrum: I was gonna die young, now I gotta wait for you. The sentiment feels very millennial, and the unique production makes it fresh and danceable. The walkable beat is ideal for trudging home alone from the bar and that triumphant hook means that these may ultimately be happy tears. Perhaps the "you" we are waiting to watch burn so bright is in fact yourself, and you can be your own reason to keep going.
Listen to Agnes’s ‘Cry Yrself Clean’ playlist here
You can find Agnes on the net via Twitter: @toothyhellbeast
Stay tuned for more cmd+vent dropping Saturday. A brand new cmd+f is out tomorrow!